Switching from Mailbox

On December 8th, I received an email from Mailbox announcing the discontinuation of their product within 2 months.

What a loss; I used it for 2 years and it solved completely my email problems.

No time for crying — I needed to find a replacement and get used to it before February.

What I need

When you are used to a solution, it’s hard to change your habits. Here are the things I really liked with Mailbox:

  1. Quick swipe to Archive, and to Snooze (“I’ll deal with that at a more appropriate time”)
  2. Has both iPhone and Mac clients
Archive and Snooze swipes in Mailbox

After some research, I decided to try 3 clients on my iPhone:

  1. Outlook
  2. Google Inbox
  3. Spark

I installed them all, and tried to switch from one to the other randomly.

Outlook

Outlook looks good initially. It has only 2 swipe actions, but they are configurable. The app also has my favourite calendar (now discontinued too) integrated.

But quickly, I realized that the app gestures are not smooth, and swiping through many emails takes a frustrating amount of time.

Lastly, the Mac client is very expensive.

Google Inbox

I tried Google Inbox when they released it, but I was so comfortable with Mailbox that I didn’t see a good reason to give it more time.

One feature that Inbox has is that it attempts to intelligently bundle your emails together by categories to keep them organized. This can be really useful when the categories are intuitive. For example, I receive a lot of Github notifications, and I deal with most of them at certain times of the day. So for these emails, it’s great that they are not polluting my inbox, but waiting for me to get to them instead. Other times, the auto-bundling is inappropriate; I want to see my important emails in a list, not under a label. These bundles I disabled.

Todo, Github Bundle - Smart quick answer

On the swipe side, it has my two favourites ones: Archive and Snooze.

Inbox also generates a quick response feature based on the text of the email, and these tend to be accurate and useful.

A new feature is that you can easily create a reminder based off of an email and they show up appropriately based on the time set. You can swipe them away or “Snooze” them to the best appropriate time.

The only drawback, as I am traveling without a constant internet connection, is that the emails in the “Trips” bundle are not available offline. Although they are presented in a nice way, I don’t understand this product decision: it’s when we are traveling outside of our network that we need the hotel/flight documents.

There is no Mac client, but there is a sweet web application.

Spark

Spark looks gorgeous. It has 4 configurable swipes, and puts the important emails at the top (before the newsletters, Github notifications, etc…).

As I write my first email, it tells me it had detected some signatures I use often, and I can choose one of them by swiping the signature. Sweet.

I am a huge fan of Pocket, where I store all my future readings. With Mailbox, I had to copy the link from the email and go to Pocket app to add it. In Spark, it’s another option next to copy. Smart.

Swipe through all the used signatures — Send directly to Pocket

My travel emails are available offline. Good.

The really bad thing is that Spark doesn’t have a Mac integration (yet). This means I have to switch to another client when I’m back working in an office.

Another annoyance is that Spark kills your phone battery the fastest.

Verdict

As you might have understood, I already dropped Outlook and I am playing with both Spark and Inbox, favouring the former slightly (although I am hoping there will be a Mac integration when I go back in an office in a few months).

But there was a day that definitely changed my decision.

I was in a small town in Myanmar, with a really slow wifi connection. I started my day by forwarding a email with attachment. In the evening, I re-opened the app, and it was not updating my email list correctly. I realize the email of this morning is in a weird state.

I go on Gmail Web to check if the email was actually sent and see that the emails I’ve sent in the last 10 days have disappeared. I did a search for a known sent email; it was somewhere in Gmail but not in the Sent box anymore.

I realized that one of my email apps has a bug and is archiving my sent emails.

It was pretty easy to find the culprit. I closed all the apps, and one by one, I sent an email, waited a bit, then checked the Sent box on the Gmail Web client. Since then, I’ve uninstalled Spark.

Welcome Inbox to my home screen.

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